The National, Wednesday July 10th, 2013
THE historical district of Salamaua in Morobe has discovered a hidden cement cricket pitch in the small village of Laugui at the Salamaua Point.
The discovery confirms reports of cricket matches being played between Wau, Bulolo and Salamaua in the 1930s.
Salamaua is located south of PNG’s second largest city, Lae and has a rich history dating back to the 1930s when the township was declared the capital of New Guinea in 1938.
The township was originally developed as a hub for coastal shipping and to support gold mining operations inland at Wau.
Buildings and facilities were constructed on the isthmus as well.
The town was attacked on Jan 21, 1942 during the World War II by the Japanese and its Australian residents were evacuated immediately.
The Japanese then took over the city on March 8, 1942 and was later recaptured by the Australian and American troops with the help of the “fuzzy wuzzy” angels on Sept 12, 1943.
Nowadays the district is not known for cricket but the history of the sport suggests otherwise.
Even the existence of the cement pitch or what its actual purpose was never known to the people of Salamaua.
Coincidentally, the current generation of Salamaua were unaware that such a pitch existed in their homeland.
Morobe Regional Cricket Manager, Rodney Maha was in Salamaua to conduct several school clinics as part of the award winning BSP School Kriket programme when he stumbled across the existence of a cement cricket pitch.
The programme was run in four schools around the district including, Salamaua Primary, Iwal Primary, Lakala Primary and Pobdubi Primary School.
The existence of the pitch was mentioned when Maha was speaking to one of the village elders about the history of World War II.
Further investigations were done to discover where and why this pitch was built where it is today.
A local elder in the village, Simon Zava said that his father used to tell them stories of the white man playing a game on that cement pitch.
“The elder people in the village used to tell us stories about the white man playing a game with a ball, a bat and three sticks in the ground,” Simon Zava said.
Maha was stunned to learn of the existence of the cement pitch.
“I was shocked when a local elder (Zava) was explaining that there was some sort of cement pitch at Salamaua Point. He went on to explain that there were stories told to him about the white man playing with a bat, ball and three sticks on the ground,” Maha said.
“It then clicked, that this old man was talking about cricket being played here well before World War II.
“I never knew cricket used to be played here let alone a cement cricket pitch been around for more than 60 years,” he added.
Unconfirmed reports indicate the pitch was built around the 1930s for the Australians and British who played against other teams from Wau and Bulolo.
After the war the people of Salamaua covered the pitch with sand to play soccer, which was due to the Australians and British leaving no gear behind.
Years of erosion and the rising sea level finally uncovered the pitch.
Although the cement pitch had been discovered, no one knew what the pitch was used for until the arrival of the Morobe BSP School Kriket team.
Fellow cricket enthusiast and guide, Ian Singas who hails from Nuknuk village was surprised to learn of the existence of a cricket pitch in his homeland.
Singas plays with Maha in the local Lae Cricket Association competition and had suggested asked Maha to run the BSP School Kriket programme in his hometown.
“I grew up in this area (Salamaua), and have lived my entire life here and never knew there was a cricket pitch in this area. I’m lost for words. This is unbelievable” Singas said.